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French president Hollande arrives in India to sell Rafale fighter jets Last Updated : 14 Feb 2013 10:49:45 AM IST French president Hollande arrives in India to sell Rafale fighter jets
French President François Hollande has arrived in India on Thursday. His top agenda is to clinch a $12-billion sale of French Rafale fighter jets, among others.
Top of the agenda is a giant deal that France's Dassault Aviation hopes to sell 126 Rafale jets to India this year, although it will not be inked during the trip.
Hollande's trip to India is entirely a business trip and is based on reviving strategic Indo-French partnership launched 15 years ago.
A total of 11 companies from the urban development sector of France will be part of the Presidential delegation.President is accompanied by five ministers including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The chiefs of more than 60 top French companies will also join him for the two-day trip starting on Thursday.
India's ambassador to Paris, Rakesh Sood, stressed that Hollande had chosen the emerging Asian superpower for his first visit outside Europe and French-speaking Africa since taking office.
"Things are moving very fast and we hope that a contractwill be finalised as soon as possible but it will not take place during this visit," a French diplomatic source said.
India's air chief NAK Browne said he hoped the deal wouldbe signed by June. "We want it to happen as early as possible for induction soon," he added.
Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier has confirmed thatIndian negotiators had detailed their needs for an additional 63 planes over the initial order for 126 aircraft.
In a welcome stroke of serendipity for Paris, the planes in question have been showcased in the French military intervention in Mali.
The rapid air strikes on Islamists there have played avital role in a whirlwind offensive to drive them from the west African nation's vast northern territory.
Hollande will be followed days later in Delhi by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has lobbied on behalf of the Eurofighter, a rival jet made by a partly British consortium
which is ready to step in if Dassault fails.
Under the proposed Rafale deal, the first 18 aircraft are to be made in France with the remainder to be produced under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the state-run Indian aerospace behemoth.
Another important project that will dominate the trip is acontract for Areva to construct a nuclear power station in the western coastal state of Maharashtra. It has run into stiff
opposition from environmentalists.
The project, signed in December 2010, is for two Europeanpressurised reactors (EPR) at Jaitapur 400 kilometres south of Mumbai, with an option for four more reactors.
A committee protesting the Jaitapur nuclear power project, which also has Left leaders as its members, today asked the government not to sign any agreement on the supply of reactors for the proposed plant.
"We understand that NPCIL is planning to sign an agreement with Areva (company) during the visit of the French President.
Given the range of issues with the Jaitapur project, it would not be in the interest of our country to sign any agreement with Areva on the EPR reactor," the National Committee in Solidarity with Jaitapur Struggle said in a statement here.
Maintaining that the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) was "untested" as it has not been commissioned anywhere in the world including France, Karat and Gopalakrishnan said the estimated cost of electricity produced by them would be very high, apart from the EPRs themselves being highly expensive.
"There is tremendous lack of transparency in several aspects relating to nuclear policy.....Areva's EPR is not in operation anywhere in the world.....Why is there so much of urgency in signing this deal," asked Gopalakrishnan.
He said the cost of power generated by these EPRs would be about Rs 36 crore per MW, after the recent 30 per cent hike caused by the mandatory modifications that have to be carried out in them.
Karat said the Jaitapur project was being "pushed against the will of the people of the region. Any nuclear plant has to work with the people of the area if it has to operate safely."
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